User Flow vs User Journey: Why They Matter in UX Design
To create a website or app that prioritizes the user experience (UX), a UX agency strives to understand its market’s interactions with the product through a user flow and a user journey.
This blog post explores these two distinct but interrelated concepts:
- What are their definitions?
- How do they differ?
- Why are they essential in UX design?
- What are the best tips for combining user flows and user journeys?
It also includes real-life examples to illustrate how understanding user flows and user journeys can help design UX that works effectively and intuitively.
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Compare User Flows and User Journeys
A user flow is a visual representation or diagram illustrating the path someone takes on a website or app to complete a specific task. It may be registering for a service, buying a product, or signing up for a mailing list.
Here is an example of an ecommerce checkout. The user would:
- Browse products and select one they want to purchase.
- Add the product to their cart.
- Proceed to checkout.
- Review their order and enter shipping details.
- Choose a payment method and add their payment information.
- Confirm the purchase.
- Receive a confirmation message or email about the successful order.
On the other hand, a user journey is a broader term that describes the overall experience of using your product, including all tasks, emotions, and experiences. It also considers different types of users, from first-time visitors to experienced customers.
For instance, you have an online shoe store. A typical user journey might look like this:
- The target market becomes aware of your products when they see a social media ad about your summer sale.
- The user clicks the ad, bringing them to your website. They browse various categories and read product details and customer reviews. There they find a pair of running shoes that they like but are unsure about the size.
- They use your site’s chat support to ask about the shoe-size guide. Your customer service answers all of their questions and even gives them a discount code as a first-time buyer.
- The user decides to buy the shoes due to the encouraging interaction. They then create an account, apply the discount code and checkout.
- The buyer enters shipping details and payment information, reviews the order, and confirms the purchase. They receive an immediate confirmation email summarizing their order.
- After a few days, the user receives the pair of shoes and is satisfied. They receive a follow-up email asking for a review. The user leaves a positive review on the website and subscribes to the newsletter for future sales notifications.
Overall, the user journey and flow differ in the following ways:
- Scope. A user flow focuses on a single task or activity, while a user journey looks at the entire user experience.
- Content. User flows are mainly made of visual elements such as arrows and boxes, while user journeys use words to describe each step of the experience.
- Complexity. User flows are relatively simple diagrams that can quickly be assembled, while user journeys involve more detailed analysis and research.
Why User Flows and User Journeys Are Important for UX Design
Despite their differences, user flows and user journeys have one core goal in common: making UX as efficient, pleasant, and valuable as possible.
User flow helps UX designers understand how people interact with specific features on a website or app. It gives them a roadmap for creating an intuitive interface that facilitates smooth navigation and highlights key attributes. Understanding user flows also makes it easier to identify potential pitfalls before they become problems.
User journeys help a UX agency understand how users feel at every process step. They can make product changes that meet user needs and expectations. Quantifying emotions, such as frustration or satisfaction, also lets designers more effectively measure the success or failure of certain features.
Lastly, user flows and user journeys should be seen as complementary tools. Together, they provide a holistic picture of the different patterns that buyers choose.
Consider this Airbnb example to see how they work together:
- The lead lands on the homepage based on a prior search or a recommendation from a friend. They input travel details such as destination, dates, and the number of guests, and hit the Search button. The user flow provides smooth navigation through this process, with clearly visible and intuitively placed buttons.
- The search results page shows a list of available rentals and filters for precise refinement. The user journey comes into play here. The filters streamline the search process to avoid overwhelming the user with numerous choices.
- They select a property and see a detailed page with images, descriptions, ratings, and reviews. This data is important because the brand understands that users need comprehensive information to make an informed decision.
- Once ready to book, they complete a simple form and go through a straightforward payment procedure before confirming the reservation. Here, the user flow reduces friction for a smooth transaction, while the user journey anticipates the relief and excitement of successfully booking a trip, culminating in a satisfactory experience.
Seven Basic UX Design Tips to Combine User Flows and Journeys
Now that you better understand the relationship between user flows and journeys, let us dive deeper into how to incorporate them. Add these tips to the list of best practices for UX design:
- Prioritize simplicity. Keep your user flows clean and straightforward, with minimal steps involved in getting from one point to another. This streamlines the process and makes it easier for users to quickly get what they need.
- Be clear. Provide specific visual cues for each user flow step so that they know where to go next.
- Understand your users. Create user personas, which are generalized representations of your ideal customers. These personas help you understand your users' needs, goals, and behavior patterns and serve as a foundation for user flows and user journeys.
- Identify user goals and tasks. Determine what the user is trying to achieve (user goals) and the actions they need to take to achieve those objectives (tasks). Develop these for each persona and every stage of the user journey.
- Map out the user journey. Document the steps the user must take from their initial interaction with your product to their final goal. This journey map should be detailed and consider all potential touchpoints. It should align with the user flow, illustrating the ideal path that users should follow to achieve their goals.
- Iterate and improve. Continuously review and update user flows and journeys based on customer feedback, usability testing, and business goals.
- Measure your results. Use tools such as heatmaps, funnels, and analytics to gauge user flow and journey performance. This data helps identify areas that need improvement or additional features that you can add to enhance the experience.
Good user experiences do not happen by chance. It requires a deep understanding of your target market's aspirations, challenges, and objectives. Both user flows and journeys help you map out the ideal user experience that meets their needs.
As a UX agency, Digital Authority Partners (DAP) specializes in digging deeper into your target market. With our data-driven approach, we meticulously craft user flows and journeys to create memorable, unique, and profitable experiences. Contact us today to begin your UX transformation.
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